The Hitchhiker – The Legendary Billy B (03/31/87)

It wasn’t much of a twist, but way to blow it in the opening credits.

It is almost a certainty that an episode centered around a rock band or rock musician will be as dreadful as most episodes with a Christmas theme.  That Outer Limits episode with Sheena Easton was tolerable because it was The Outer Limits and had Sheena Easton.  The Christmas episodes have to be mawkish or show that miracles do come true. In the rock & roll episodes, the miracle is that anyone on-screen cares about the god-awful music or the repulsive artists.  Even trying to introduce a edgy vibe by using someone like Henry Rollins or Iggy Pop usually serves only to demonstrate how utterly vacuous and laughable they are.

Kirstie Alley and Andy Summers are hiding outside a house spying on a couple coupling like a couple of rabbits.  It seems like a fairly mundane story until Summers recognizes the girl as being the man’s sister.  Kirstie is giddy — this will finally catapult her to the big time!  Publicizing people’s most intimate moments can only lead to fortune and a long career as the fine people at Gawker can tell us.

When the story and pictures are published, Kirstie shows her excitement by buying a fake fur coat.  Summers is a little more sympathetic, showing her a new headline, “Actor’s Wife Takes Life After Illicit Love Nest Exposed.”  Her main concern is that another magazine is stealing her story.  She does calm down again when Summers reveals he has been sneaking pictures of the titular Legendary Billy B. who is supposed to be dead.

Summers tells her, “Billy B. was one of the original acid rockers, the greatest American guitarist pre-Hendrix, the big rock sex god after Elvis and before Jim Morrison.” Unlike the other three dumb-asses, his death was not self-inflicted by drugs — he was shot on stage 20 years ago. And unlike two of those three, he seems to be alive.

Kirstie is ready to get the scoop and ruin his retirement, but Summers is again the voice of reason.  He was just stalking Billy B. for his own amusement; a defense which has never worked for me.   She talks him into making it a story.  They go to his house and jump the wall.  Kirstie mentions how Billy B. appeared only 25 in Summers’ pictures, but he should be in his fifties.  Summers says rock & roll keeps you young.  To be fair, in 1987 he had no way of knowing what Keith Richards would look like in 2017.[1]

They break into the house and hear guitar riffs that could only be coming from Billy B. They follow them to the 2nd floor which smells like “beer and piss and vomit.”  They follow some flashing lights up to the 3rd floor.  They catch Billy B. playing the guitar.  He stops and says, “Glad you could make it.”

When Kirstie suggests a comeback, he tells her, “I’m not exactly one of those forgotten cult heroes, you know.  If I can still make you shiver on record, I’m not forgotten am I? Don’t it make you shiver just to hear my music?  Don’t you just want to rip your clothes off when see me?  I don’t ask, I don’t say anything.  I just play.  That is what it means to be a rockstar.”

Summers busts him for giving the exact same inane response he gave a reporter 20 years earlier.  His other dopey answers are also rehashes of old interviews.  They want some new material, so Summers challenges Billy B. to play more than a simple riff.  When he seems unable, they peg him as a phony.  He pulls a gun on them. Summers proves to be quite agile as he leaps through a glass window, then jumps from the 2nd story.  Sadly he is killed by Red or Sonny or whatever Billy B.’s lackey is named.

Kirstie is able to run downstairs (Note to self: Be nice!).  On the first floor, she hears more guitar riffs, although these are not as terrible as the others.  She finds the real, more age-appropriate, Billy B., but he is unresponsive.

She increases his IV to a VI, but that doesn’t do much other than get him shaking.  Young Billy B. shows up with Red or Sonny.  Young Billy B. admits he is actually the son of Billy B.  This is not much of a shocker as the opening credits listed “Brad Dourif as Billy Baltimore Jr.”  They inject Kirstie with something and hook her up to an IV just like Billy Baltimore Sr.  For what reason, I have no idea.

The extent to which this episode is redeemable depends on how much you like Kirstie Alley.  As it happens, I like her, so she mitigated the awfulness.  I can imagine her over-the-top performance would grate on many people.  Despite being a musician, Andy Summers seems like a decent guy.  His acting isn’t up there with Roger Daltrey’s, but he was a nice addition.[2]  Overall, though, it is just another mediocre music episode in an often lackluster series.


  • [1] Although credit is due for being alive at all.
  • [2] FYI, Sting is an asshole.
  • In 6 months, Kirstie Alley would begin her run on Cheers. Sadly, I don’t think she did much running after that (Note to self: Nicer than that).
  • I saw no opportunity for a Kobayashi Maru reference.

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